Rishi Sunak insisted there was no need to move to Plan B to cut Covid cases today – after health chiefs discussed whether there needed to be an ‘immediate rollout’ of tougher measures to combat a surge in cases.
The Chancellor insisted that the data shows that bringing back working from home and introducing mandatory Covid passports was not yet required.
His comments to the BBC‘s Andrew Marr programme came after it was reported that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) contacted local authorities on Friday to canvass their level of support for the ‘immediate rollout of the winter plan – plan B’.
An ‘official – sensitive’ document seen by the Observer sought opinions from the leaders and chief executives of councils across England to be fed to the Cabinet Office before then end of the day.
But Mr Sunak today said: ‘The data does not suggest we should be immediately moving to Plan B.’
However a leading Government scientist said ‘some kind of Plan B’ was needed immediately’.
Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths are rising, and warned against complacency in what he said is a ‘worsening’ situation.
The Chancellor insisted that the data shows that bringing back working from home and introducing mandatory Covid passports was not yet required. Meanwhile shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Government should introduce its Plan B to tackle the rising rates of coronavirus now.
Meanwhile shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Government should introduce its Plan B to tackle the rising rates of coronavirus now.
Speaking on Marr, Ms Reeves was asked what Labour’s position was on reintroducing restrictions such as the wearing of face coverings and working from home.
She said: ‘Labour as a responsible opposition have always said that we would follow the science, and we’ve seen today that Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) are saying that some aspects of Plan B, like wearing masks on public transports and in shops, and also working from home more flexibly should be introduced.
‘I think the first thing is the Government have got to do more to make Plan A work.
‘If the scientists are saying work from home and masks, we should do that. So get A working better because the vaccination programme has been stalling, introduce those parts of Plan B.
‘But there are also things not in A or B that need to be done, like paying statutory sick pay from day one and also better ventilation in public spaces.’
Asked directly whether Plan B should be introduced now, she said: ‘Yes, but let’s not let the Government off the hook with Plan A either.’
Prof Finn warned vaccines are not going to be enough to keep the spread of coronavirus under control, and said people need to make effort to avoid contact in order to slow transmission rates.
He told Trevor Phillips on Sky News: ‘I think that the vaccine programme is doing a lot to make the situation much less severe than it would otherwise be.
‘And the vaccines principally are very effective at stopping people from getting seriously ill.
‘They’re not so effective unfortunately at stopping infections altogether or stopping the virus from being spread about.
‘They do have an effect on that, but they’re not by themselves going to be enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control.
‘And we do need to see people continuing to make efforts to avoid contact, to avoid transmission, and to do other things as well as get vaccinated if we’re going to stop this rise from going up further.’
Professor Adam Finn, who is on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths are rising, and warned against complacency in what he said is a ‘worsening’ situation
But Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said Plan A is ‘working’ and ‘where we need to be’.
Asked how Covid-19 cases are going to be brought down, she told LBC: ‘I think everybody is aware that we’ve got the autumn and winter plan, and part of that is Plan A and part is Plan B, so it would be remiss of us not to have contingencies.
‘But the data right now shows that Plan A is where we need to be, and we look at the data day in day out, and that is showing that Plan A is where we need to be with the vaccination programme.’
Asked about where case numbers will have to get to before the public will be asked to work from home, Ms Throup said: ‘The public has been very patient in doing what we’ve asked them to do.
‘And I think Plan A has actually opened up people’s lives and that’s so important because if we do need to take further measures I’m sure they’ll have appreciated exactly the freedoms we’ve been able to offer them at this time.
‘Plan A is working, as I said, the data right now shows that Plan A is working.’